Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
The Christian Faith offers a great exchange! Change the old for the new. The new does not come by trying harder or reforming yourself. The change is a transformation. God changes us from the inside out.
Look at a few things we are asked to exchange:
- Bitterness. This means an angry temper and describes a person who is always ready to take offense.
- Rage. This is an out of control anger that results in out of control outbursts.
- Anger. Anger is where bitterness and rage come from.
- Brawling. Angry words will lead to fighting and serve as a description of people in severe conflict.
- slander. Anger will lead people to say mean things and do their best to ruin the reputation of others.
- every form of malice. This is the attitude of everything that is contrary to goodness.
Some of the attitudes mentioned above and habits seem to be deeply ingrained in people, yet the power and grace of God can transform anyone. It does not appear that we have much to offer: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and all forms of malice. All of these items, such as anger, brawling, etc., seem to be our part in the ‘exchange.’ Paul says these are things we are to ‘put off’ or get rid of, and then you can be someone different. Notice this contrast from ‘getting rid of’ to ‘be.’ This passage from the Bible does not implore us to reform or strive to be a better person. Paul is saying you can be something. The power of God will change you and me from the inside out.
Be Kind. Kindness is selfless, compassionate love and regard for others.
Be Compassionate. Compassion means someone else’s heartbreak becomes your pain. Another’s suffering becomes your suffering. True compassion changes the way we live and the way we treat people.
Forgiving. Forgiving does not mean we forget. You can forgive, but forgetting is another matter. Forgiving others say we are modeling what Jesus has done for us, and we wish the offender no harm but good, and we have renounced our need for revenge. Forgiveness is hard work and can only be accomplished by the help of God. Nearly everyone has struggled with forgiving someone. Hurts pile up in this life, but since we have been forgiven of our sins by God, we must forgive others.
The remainder of the verse reminds us of two important facts. The model for forgiveness is found in God’s forgiveness of us through the sacrificial death of Jesus. Just as God forgives us our sins as we receive the free gift of eternal life, this is how we are to relate to others. Forgiveness is to be a hallmark of the believer’s life.
Paul also says, “each other.” Relationships are vital to our faith, and we are to be a community. Our belief is not to be lived out only in a sanctuary on Sunday, it is lived out seven days a week at home, work, and the marketplace. Along the way, we bump into a lot of people. All of us are quick to remember the people who have hurt and wronged us, and not so ready to remember that we have done the same to other people. The way to get through all of this is to live out this command by the power of the Holy Spirit: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32-32).